East Asia Theater
Hong Kong pro-democracy group Demosisto announced it will disband following China's enactment of a "National Security Law" that extends Beijing's control over the semi-autonomous city. The decision to disband came hours after three of the group's leading activists, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow, issued statements saying they were stepping down from the organization under threat of "political imprisonment."
At a rally at Taipei's Liberty Square marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the Hong Kong protest movement June 13, demonstrators held banners that read: "Taiwan and Hong Kong are partners together, the struggle remains unfinished," and "Against the expansion of Chinese imperialism." (Taipei Times) Earlier that day, demonstrators gathered in Taipei's 228 Memorial Park for a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States. Some speakers drew parallels between the contemporary police brutality in the US and the repression of dissidents during the White Terror of Taiwan's authoritarian past.
In an alarming tit-for-tat June 9, Taiwan's defense ministry said that several Chinese fighter jets briefly entered the country's air defense identification zone, and the US took the unusual move of flying a C-40A military transport plane over Taiwan. The US overflight was assailed by Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office as "an illegal act and a seriously provocative incident." This comes as the US is deploying two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Pacific—the San Diego-based USS Nimitz and the Yokosuka-based USS Ronald Reagan. These join the USS Theodore Roosevelt, also based in San Diego but now patrolling the Philippine Sea near Guam. This marks the first time in three years that three US strike gorups have been simultaneously deployed to the Pacific, in what is being seen as an explicit warning to China. The triple deployment follows accusations by Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, commander of US forces in Japan, that China is using the coronavirus crisis as a cover to push territorial claims in the South China Sea. "Through the course of the COVID crisis we saw a surge of maritime activity," Schneider told Reuters. (The Hill, The Hill, USNI News, Reuters, AP)
Thousands gathered in Hong Kong's Victoria Park to attend the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4—in defiance of an unprecedented police ban, ostensibly imposed as a measure to contain COVID-19. Attendees wearing surgical masks clambered over police barriers to enter the park. Organizers, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said that participants would enter the park in groups of eight, as per the official restrictions on public gatherings. Thousands of police were on stand-by in the area, but did not intervene. The solemn occasion usually attracts tens of thousands of participants, as Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil where such an event can be held. (HKFP)
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Chinese authorities to immediately release journalist Zhang Zhan, drop any charges against her, and ensure that the media can cover the coronavirus pandemic without fear of arrest. Zhang, an independent video journalist who had been posting reports from Wuhan on Twitter and YouTube since early February, went missing in the city on May 14, one day after she published a video critical of the government's countermeasures to contain the virus, according to news reports. On May 15, the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau issued a notice stating that Zhang had been arrested and detained for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," and was being held at the Pudong Xinqu Detention Center. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, according to the Chinese criminal code.
Some 230 people were arrested in Hong Kong May 10, as pro-democracy demonstrations again mobilized in the city after weeks of a lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19. Following "sing-along" actions at several shopping malls, some protesters gathered on the streets of Kowloon's Mong Kok commercial district before riot police were sent in to disperse them. Police were accused of brutality in the dispersal operation, and several demonstrators were hospitalized. Among those detained and hospitalized was lawmaker Roy Kwong of the Democratic Party, who was on hand to observe the police operations. Reporters were apparently targeted by police, with the Hong Kong Journalists Association issuing a statement decrying the "abuse and detention" of media workers. (HKFP, RTHK, DW, SCMP)
Hong Kong police arrested 15 leading pro-democracy figures on April 18, in connection with allegedly "organizing and participating in unlawful assemblies" last year. Among those arrested were two former chairs of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee and Albert Ho, former Democratic Party councilors Yeung Sum and Sin Chung-kai, and sitting district councilor Richard Tsoi; forner Labour Party councilors Lee Cheuk-yan and Cyd Ho; sitting council member Leung Yiu-chung of the Neighbourhood & Worker's Service Centre; two leaders of the Civil Human Rights Front, Au Nok-hin and Figo Chan; three leaders of the League of Social Democrats, Raphael Wong, Leung Kwok-hung and Avery Ng; Civic Party leader Margaret Ng; and pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
Speaking April 14 at COVIDCon, an online Oslo Freedom Forum event presented by the Human Rights Foundation, exiled Chinese dissident Yang Jianli of the DC-based Citizen Power Initiatives for China charged that the death toll for Wuhan, the city where the COVID-19 outbreak began, was massively under-counted by authorities. In a talk entitled "The Chinese Communist Party: Savior or Culprit?," Yang portrayed a far-reaching cover-up by the Beijing regime. Citing his monitoring of social media, Yang said that as Xi Jinping visited Wuhan on March 10, "endless Wuhan residents pleaded for help online, saying hospitals were overflowing and their family members were turned away and left to die at home. Nobody knows how many people died before managing to get to hospitals."